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Clavus Annālis

At Volsinii, in Etruria, a nail was driven every year in the Temple of Nortia, the Fortuna of Etruscan mythology, in order to keep a reckoning of the years (Liv.vii. 3). This custom was introduced into Rome from Etruria, probably by the Tarquins, when they founded the Temple of Iupiter Optimus Maximus. An ancient law enacted that a nail should be driven each year by the chief magistrate on the Ides of September into the side of the cella of Iupiter on the Capitol. As the Romans thus kept a reckoning of their years, when letters were yet scarcely in use, this nail was called clavus annalis. ( Liv. l. c.; Fest. p. 56, M.). This practice fell into disuse, but was afterwards revived, not for the purpose of marking the year, but from a superstitious feeling that any great calamity, such as a pestilence, would be averted if this ceremony was performed by the supreme magistrate. Hence we read of a dictator being appointed, more than once, for the sole purpose of driving in the nail (clavi figendi causa, Liv. l. c.).

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    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 3
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